It can be cold in the dark, fingers stiff from clutching
the frozen metal pole with my flag waving at the end.
Valet Parking Right Here it says, I
wave it at the passing cars, speeding past
our shitty little casino on the way to the brightly
lit mega-gambleopilises a half mile up the road. We're
more of a locals and employees joint, but somebody still
has to stand out here with the flag, even at 11 o'clock on a
It can be hot under the lights. My eyes fill with
tears from the smoke wafting through the hot purple and red beams
of lighting painting across the dragon tattooed on my hip. Beads
of sweat run from my damp hair, tracing glistening lines
across my collarbones and over my tits as I swing a leg around
the pole and flip myself upside down. The beads change direction
as I flip upright and again upside down, flashing some ass at the loser that just
sat down at my stage. Early 30s, dark thinning hair, wedding ring.
He's like every other guy with nothing better to do than stare
at naked women who hate him--maybe he'll want a lap dance, rent is
due in the morning and I still need another two hundred bucks to
avoid blowing my landlord for my roof.
It can be noisy in solitude, laughs drifting across the
parking lot from the bar. Warm yellow light pouring through
the windows, mixing with the red, purple, and orange of neon beer
signs. Marie brings me a cup of cocoa, "I knew you'd be cold".
She is in her forties, a quiet strong women working too hard tending
bar, caring for her two teenagers. I feel a strong sense of belonging,
these are my people, quiet hard workers who want nothing more than
to do their jobs and kiss their kids and live their lives untroubled
by others. Marie has left, I transfer the flag from my frozen left
hand to the now warm right hand. The cocoa goes the other way, warming
fingers stiff and chapped from hours of wind.
It can be lonely when crushed in by bodies. I lead the
loser off through the press of people to one of the small private
(except for the security cameras, there for my protection, as if
Vince, the guy in surveillance, hasn't been posting our private
dances on the internet) booths where we do the expensive dances. This
guy, Mark is his name though I don't care, has ponied up for a $100
dance. We detour by the bar where I get him to lay out for a couple
of shots--I'm drinking more and more lately, it's the only way to
keep going. Later, after the booth, I realize that I've become disconnected
from myself again. Like some passive viewer I watch my body play out
the charade of interest in another loser, fresh from a jackpot at a
casino up the street. "Hi, what's your name? Does your wife
know you're here?" I giggle a little, stretch and shake my tits. I'm
hustling tips hard now, I'm only $35 away from paying my rent in cash this
month but there are only 25 minutes left until my shift ends.
Everything can change in a moment can change everything.
I'm drunk. As usual. The losers always buy drinks, as many drinks
as you can throw back without throwing up. Rent is made, I'm driving home,
twisting down the narrow canyon road back into town, back to my shitty little
apartment in it's shitty little neighborhood where I live my shitty little
It's still cold, but my shift ends in 15 minutes. Other casinos have
already started shift change, we've actually some business the last hour
or so as cocktailers and strippers, bartenders and slot techs pour in to
celebrate making it through another work day. I smile and wave at the
passing cars racing home.
The radio starts to make horrible noises. Fuck, it's eating another tape.
Looks like I'll have to stop using it, I sure as shit don't have the cash
to fix it. Well, not after I stop by the liquor store I won't. I look
up from the radio, I've drifted out of my lane onto the shoulder. Oops, not
a good thing at 60 miles an hour down the curves. There is something
in the way, I can't tell what.
I wave at Joanna as she pulls into the parking lot. Maybe I can convince her
to come home with me tonight, she's been acting willing lately. I turn
around just in time to see a Honda Civic with a crack in the windshield
and one of those little oil change reminder stickers in top corner of the
driver's side. I don't know why I noticed that little sticker, but it was
the last thing I saw before the car made contact with my legs.
It can be lonely when crushed in by bodies. My chest feels like
something enormous, my flagpole transformed to a sequoia, is sitting on me.
There is a puddle under me, it's warm. Everybody from inside is crowding
around me, a circle of faces directly ahead of me. I realize that I'm
laying on my back, that the people are in a circle around my prone form.
I try to tell them I'm ok, but nothing comes out. My neck hurts terribly,
and this puddle seems to be growing. Somebody needs to turn off whatever
pipe is pouring it out. I go to roll, but my body balks, flatly refuses
to move in response to my fervent desires. "An ambulance is on the way,"
I hear someone say as the worlds goes fuzzy and dims.
It can be noisy in solitude. I try to force my way
into the crowd surrounding whatever I hit. I'm dizzy and staggering
from the drinks, nobody will let me through. I wander away to my
car, the front of it ruined by impact with something big. I worry
that it may have been a person. There is a shriek of sirens in the
distance, screams and tears from the crowd. Maybe I should just go,
this looks like it could turn ugly. The car is broken, like my soul, but it starts and goes. So do I.
It can be hot under the lights. I come to for a moment
looking up at a different set of heads encircling me. These are
wearing surgical masks and brilliant white lighting paints circles
in my field of vision. I feel like I'm about to catch on fire, pain
as hot as a jet fuel fire burns through my whole body. Somewhere
off to my left an erratic beeping turns into a heart-rending
steady electronic wail. I see a doctor shake his head in resignation
and turn slowly, pulling the mask away from his face. The heat
grows under the brightening and brightening lights until, after a
brief eternal moment, everything stops.
It can be cold in the dark. The water of the river flows
over my twisted and broken body. I slalomed through an S curve at 70,
burst around a corner into the pulsating strobe of emergency lights headed
the other way. Pulling hard to the left spun me away from the lights,
the world starting spinning end over end like my body on the pole during
a hardcore techno set. Somewhere deep in my mind I realized that my
car was rolling over and over, a splash sounded impossibly close. I lay
suspended from my seatbelt screaming in agony as my limbs become more
remote, growing numb from loss of blood and exposure to the frozen water.
The gurgling sounds of the water filling the car begin to fade away as
my vision swims alarmingly. "I won't be paying rent in cash this month,"
I think as the world goes away.